Date: 17 June 2014

Ref. No.: 53/2014


The recent wave of arrests, attacks, killings and total closure of
large parts of the West Bank following the disappearance of three Israeli
settlers is a clear form of collective punishment against the Palestinian
people. Since the disappearance of the three settlers on Thursday 12 June, Israeli
forces in Jalazoun refugee camp, north of Ramallah, have killed a Palestinian
man, Ahmad Sabarin, 20, and have arrested approximately 200 Palestinians across
the West Bank. In total, eight members of the Palestinian Legislative Council
(PLC) have been arrested since 12 June, including the head of the PLC. One PLC
member has since been released. On 15 June three people were injured, including
an eight-year old boy, when the Israeli military blew up the entrance of a
house in Hebron during an arrest operation. In addition, on 16 June six
Palestinian were injured at Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah, including Yazan
Yacoub, 17, who was, according to reports, shot in the chest and abdomen with a
live bullet, critically wounding him.


As the Occupying Power, Israel is obligated to carry out its search
for the missing settlers in line with its obligations under international
humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL). IHRL imposes
an absolute obligation on Israel to respect the right to life of Palestinians
by ensuring that the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is
carried out in a manner that minimises damage and injury and respects and
preserves human life. IHRL further prohibits arbitrary or unlawful interference
with privacy, family, home and correspondence and affords all persons the right
to liberty and security of person, which demands a legal basis for each and
every individual arrest. Furthermore, all persons that are arrested must be treated
with humanity and respect for their inherent dignity.


Although some of the measures carried out by the Israeli forces in
large parts of the West Bank may have a link to the investigation into the
disappearances, the methods employed are indiscriminate in their nature and are
undermining the fundamental rights of the persons concerned. Furthermore, these
restrictive measures are being carried out based on mere speculation regarding
both the identity of those responsible for the disappearances and their
location. As such, these measures indicate Israel’s intention to impose
punitive measures against large portions of the
Palestinian population in violation of
Article 33 of the
Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting reprisals against
protected persons and their property, as well as collective punishment. 


Furthermore, Israeli
government threats to expel Hamas personnel from the West Bank to the Gaza
Strip based on allegations that the organisation is responsible for the
settlers’ disappearances not only amounts to indiscriminate collective
punishment but also violates Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which
prohibits forcible transfers and deportations of protected persons in occupied
territory. The violation of this provision amounts to a grave breach of the
Geneva Conventions and as such may constitute a war crime under Article
8(2)(a)(vii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.


The Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC) condemns
Israel’s disregard for its obligations under international law and its use of
reprisals against the Palestinian population in carrying out its investigations
into the disappeared youths. PHROC calls upon High Contracting Parties to the
Geneva Conventions to uphold their obligation to ensure respect for the
Conventions as established under Common Article 1, by taking concrete measures
to pressure Israel to halt its violations of international law.


PHROC further condemns the Israeli government-initiated law
proposal to permit force-feeding of hunger strikers. Currently, over 125 Palestinian
detainees and prisoners have been on hunger strike in protest against Israel’s
illegal practice of Administrative Detention. Force feeding is defined as
torture by the
World Medical Association and has been condemned by the United
Nations (UN), including by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. As such, PHROC
calls upon the international community to condemn the law publicly and to urge
the Israeli government to
withdraw it. Moreover, PHROC calls on Israel to heed to the demands of the
hunger strikers by bringing its illegal practice
of administrative detention to an immediate end.